Monday, June 05, 2006

Guy Maddin's "Eye Like a Strange Balloon"


Directed by Guy Maddin, Canada/UK, 1995, 5 minutes

Source: Track 18_Short 2 - Dreams (DVD 19)
So experimental is a film that either resists or rejects a story. It took me quite a while to understand this experimental film but I believe that this film resists a story. It IS difficult to understand what the story is, but I will say what it is in it. There is a train, some sea shells, a keyboard, a father, a son, a girl, some teeth brushing sounds, a guy from zepplin on fire, some teeth plucking, a cactus man, some eye stabbing, a boy's head dangling on a plant like fruit, a decapitate, and a giant eye floating like a balloon.............confused yet?

The story that I seem to got off of this crazy B/W short film was that there was this train engineer who has been riding with his son since the son was a kid. But years on, they witness a train-on-train collision and the only survivor was a little girl. The father and son bring the child in as part of the family. But once the girl "became of age", the father and son tried to vie for he love. But instead she goes off and marries someone who seems to be from Zepplin or a Zepplin pilot. The father tries to take the girl away or what it seems like kidnapping her but his bad deed goes punished when he puts on the train brake and has his eyes stabbed. The boy seemed to have been punished as well by being decapitated and putting his head and teeth on a platter and sending on the eye-balloon. In the end both the father and son are crippled with their punishment.

Yes this film sounds VERY confusing but there is something that impressed me in this film. First off, this film was actually being inspired. Guy Maddin was given the opportunity to make a film based on a favorite painting. Guy chose the charcoal drawing "The Eye Like A Strange Balloon Mounts Towards Infinity" by Odilon Redon which is the second title of this film. Guy used other paintings of Odilon Redon in his film like "Cactus Man" using a man with a cactus costume. Or the seashell painting which is used in mostly the beginning of Guy's film. This film was mostly used as a form of a dream since it seemed like this whole film was taken place underwater.

Second off, there was a lot of analysis that was literally displayed in the film. Dark dream imagery is the key in this film. Like for example, when the girl (and the boy) had their legs encased in a shell and one day the shell opened up and releasing them, it is the same as maturing, like the phrase, "coming out of his/her shell". Also the scene where the girl has her jaw chattering closer to the father's beard, it is the same as saying the desire for the girl is about to get the best of the father. Also when the boy played with the keyboard the first time, the scene jumped cut to a scene that looked liked a row of teeth and one is pressed down when the note is played, then when the father had his eyes stabbed from a stop of the train, one key/tooth flew out as a sign of physical damage. These portrayal of art are what makes this film difficult to figure out, heck even my interpretations are not definite and true, anyone can interpret the visual scene differently. But with enough time and effort, it is a pretty good film to get lost in a dream.


Jessica said...

It's interesting how art in all of its forms can inspire art in different forms. Paintings inspire short films, Bruegel's painting, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus was inspired by mythology, movies are inspired by books, books inspired by life, life inspired by music (though the music community will say in every law suit that it's not their fault if kids take their song lyrics to heart.) We've obviously seen features based on shorts, I wonder if there are shorts based on features?

Rhead said...

On the subject of art, it is interesting to me how medium justifies certain expressions while rejecting others. The work of visual art from which Guy Maddin took his insipriation can better withstand the apparent chaos of abstraction than can film, which seems to demand a degree of linerarity or, if not that, at least something recognizable. And where Daniel struggled to articulate a summary of the film in writing, he found an oasis (as did the reader) in the film's background, which succeeded at least to give the abstraction some meaningful context. I'd guess we'd call them clues. Armed with that point of reference, the film becomes less about narrative--or what we expect from the medium--and more about simple expression, that which typifies abstract art.